The rich variety of flora on The Ridgeway includes common and rare species, with something of interest throughout the summer along the whole length of the route. On chalk grassland, plants have to be well-adapted to their environment to survive. Continuous grazing by sheep and other animals in the past meant that plants had to have strategies to avoid being eaten, such as leaves pressed down to form a rosette on the surface of the soil, and buds produced near soil level out of harm’s way, but the flowers must be raised well above the ground to attract pollinators. Competition on grassland is fierce, with little room in the crowded turf for new plants to establish, so most species are perennials, the few annuals appearing in very small areas such as hoof prints and old cowpats.
Rare downland plants to be found include Orchids (Common Spotted, Pyramidal, Fragrant, Bee Orchid), Small Scabious, Chalk Milkwort, Autumn Gentian and Clustered Bellflower.
The more common and obvious flowering plants include:
Greater Stitchwort, Common Mouse-ear, Common Chickweed, Cow Parsley, Mayweeds, Bladder Campion, White Campion, White Clover, Hogweed, Wild Carrot, Upright Hedge-parsley, Hedge Bindweed, Field Bindweed (white & pink flowers), Hedge Bedstraw, Yarrow, Oxeye Daisy.
Lesser Celandine, Creeping Cinquefoil, Black Medick, Cowslip, Primrose, Coltsfoot, Dandelion, Buttercup, Weld, Wild Mignonette, Agrimony, Silverweed, Ribbed Melilot, Meadow Vetchling, Bird’s-foot-trefoil, Black Medick, St John’s Wort, Common Rock-rose, Wild Parsnip, Lady’s Bedstraw, Common Toadflax, Goat’s-beard, Hawkweed, Sow Thistle, Ragwort.
BLUE OR VIOLET FLOWERS:
Violet, Ground Ivy, Speedwell, Meadow Crane’s-bill, Selfheal, Field Scabious, Harebell, Bluebell, Vetches (Bush, Tufted, Kidney, Horseshoe), Wild Thyme.
Dog’s Mercury, Traveller’s-joy, Salad Burnet, White Bryony, Mugwort, Plantain.
RED, PINK OR PURPLE FLOWERS:
Red Campion, Common Vetch, Dovesfoot Cranesbill, Herb Robert, Salad Burnet, Clover, Common Mallow, Rosebay Willowherb, Scarlet Pimpernel, Hedge Woundwort, Bittersweet, Red Bartsia, Knapweed, Burdock, Poppy, Thistle.